POLICE have reunited a stolen bike with its rightful owner, 12 years after the original theft.

Officers in Consett found the mountain bike among a haul of stolen property during a raid last week and tracked down the owner at his home in Darlington.

Earlier today (Tuesday), officers handed over the long-lost bike to its grateful owner Paul Wallis, who hadn’t seen it since 2002.

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Inspector Keith Wardle, of Consett Police, said: "We have never returned something which has been stolen quite so long ago, but there is always the possibility that we can trace the owner.

"It was so long ago he had forgotten all about it, but he was over the moon to get it back."

On March 7, officers executed a search warrant in the Leadgate area of Consett and found the bike among a number of stolen items.

A 43-year-old local man was arrested on suspicion of possession of stolen goods and firearms offences. He was questioned and released on police bail.

Among the haul was a set of rare handmade carving knives, stolen last summer from a campsite near Medomsley, which were also reunited with their owner.

Meanwhile PCSO Mark Rodgers tried to track down the owner of the bike, running its make, model and colour through the force’s computer records of reported thefts, until he got a match.

PCSO Rodgers said: "As you can imagine it wasn’t a straightforward matter contacting a victim of a crime which happened 12 years ago.

"Despite this, we eventually managed to locate Mr Wallis, who confirmed the bike was the one that was stolen all those years ago. He was delighted to get his bike back".

Durham Police are currently running Operation Spoke, a scheme to encourage owners to mark their cycles with a unique number which is then stored on a national Immobolise database making it easier to trace.

Oweners can take part at any cycle shop in County Durham or Darlington or can contact their local police beat team.